A Chat with John Agostino
Tough Dog started life in 1985 with company founder John Agostino at the helm. He’ll be realising 37 years of trading in July 2022.
What's the best trip you’ve ever done John?
A couple of years ago I went on a trip with the Opposite Lock team to Moreton Island. Cam McConville (V8 Supercar Driver) was there as a guest and is a terrific fellow and driver to boot! We travelled from Moreton Island up to the Scenic rim and it was an amazing trip. Mainly testing products and gathering content but having a lot of fun along the way.
Testing products is a recurring theme with what Tough Dog does, as part of its operations. Tell us about that part of the product development.
We never stop testing our products as there are so many types of driving. From sand, to offroad and into the outback. You need to know what the vehicle does in each situation, how it feels and what the suspension does in the different environments. We take a heat gun to check the temperatures of the shocks to see how they are performing and take that data back to HQ and see how we can use that in improving our products.
What really changed in the industry over the past 30 odd years John?
The vehicles of yesteryear were a bit cumbersome and more difficult to travel in due to the comfort not always being what it should be. The advent of the ‘coil-over’ shock absorber rear-end and the addition of air-bags added to a vehicle have improved things tremendously. Air bags allow for a comfortable ride when you are unladen, but you can pump them up when you load up for a trip. It’s true to say you get a very compliant ride.
The advent of externally adjustable shock absorbers means you can dial-them-up to handle like a race car. When you go offroad and you need all the extension the shock absorbers can provide, you just change the settings.
What's your favourite touring vehicle?
No doubt about it, the Land Cruiser. We have both the 200 Series and the new 300 Series in the Tough Dog fleet and the difference between the two is very noticeable. The 200 is very solid and dependable with that cracking V8 diesel motor. The 300 Series with its turbo V6 just gets there quicker. It's a little bit lighter with the use of aluminium door skins, roof and bonnet.
We’ve just come back from the Simpson Desert with a Hilux and while it performs quite well, it’s just not in the same class as the Land Cruiser. It lacks the oomph and is especially noticeable if you are towing something.
Definitely the 300 Series but you just can't get them (no stock)! We sourced one of the first in the country from Lander Toyota and will have a Tough Dog kit for sale for it in mid-June 2022. It takes about six months to develop the shock from the time we get a new model 4x4.
Recently the team went into far west NSW to do some testing on the 300 Series kit (4,000 kms in a week). We primarily went to test the shock absorbers but most notably to test the ‘bush’ that goes into the front of the shock. That is the most important part of the suspension system because if it wears out, you are literally left with nothing. We make a different style of bush given we supply suspension to military vehicles around the globe. I’m pleased to say that throughout our test drives it held up very well.
A piece of advice you treasure?
In my previous life, as a Qantas flight steward, I was in Mumbai, the Mutton Street Market. We were looking for a taxi. A kid came up and said he’d get us a taxi and took off to find us one. The remarkable part is that this kid had no legs. He was on a piece of board with four wheels bolted on the bottom, weaving in and out of the traffic to get us a cab. I thought of a saying that has stayed with me (and I’ve told my kids umpteen times too!) that ‘never complain that you’ve got no shoes until you see a man that's got no feet’. It’s so important to be happy in life with where you are and try to help other people.
Never go where you can't walk! If it looks dodgy, then it's probably dodgy. Don't take risks out in the bush!